The world’s largest fly fishing industry trade show crushes attendance records with Denver homecoming
BOZEMAN, MT. – The official attendee numbers are in for the International Fly Tackle Dealer (IFTD) show’s return to Denver this past week, and they’d be unbelievable if they weren’t tracked and verified by the show’s registration partner, Experient. IFTD 2019 saw a 97% increase over 2017’s numbers (1,141) and a 137% increase over 2018 (950), setting a record for most attendees ever in the history of the event at 2,251.
“The fly fishing industry showed up and made a statement this year,” said Ben Bulis, president of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association (AFFTA), which owns and operates the trade show, the largest of its kind in the world. “The decision to once again make the show a stand-alone fly fishing event, schedule it in October and return to our roots in Denver was the result of direct conversations with our membership. We know that there’s no way to please everyone, but the results are loud and clear: IFTD is home.”
AFFTA is the sole trade association for the fly fishing industry and the largest angling trade organization in the world. With over 1,200 members, AFFTA represents manufacturers, reps, specialty retailers, guides, outfitters, lodges, media professionals, industry partners and more, advocating for the sustainable growth of the industry.
The show’s total attendance, as compelling as it is, only tells part of the story. Booth space sold out 10-months before the event, with 156 exhibitors staking their claim on the show floor (both records); Just shy of 300 individual retailers representing 41 different countries flooded the C Hall of the Colorado Convention Center (both records); 15 educational seminars attracted a total of 491 attendees with an average of 32.7 per seminar (all three records); The Wednesday morning industry breakfast, with keynote speaker and host of the Netflix series MeatEater, Steven Rinella, sold out at 290 (a record); and the New Product Showcase featured 267 entries all vying for best-of recognition in their respective categories (a record).
The event also featured two themes that the fly fishing industry has been rallying behind: the #kickplastic initiative and promoting diversity on the water.
In a display of industry solidarity and leadership and thanks to some strategic partnerships, IFTD was entirely single-use plastic-free—from ecoboard signage and compostable plates, cups and eating utensils to reusable water bottles and filling stations, evergreen badge lanyards and much more. Information on specific steps taken at the show can be found here. Data on total waste diversion, energy savings and carbon reduction will be available soon.
Addressing an important movement in fly fishing, Joel Johnson, CEO of Admirable Devil and former CMO of Trout Unlimited hosted a strong panel discussion about the challenges, opportunities and positive impact of promoting and improving diversity on the water. The panel featured Hilary Hutcheson, guide and owner of Larry’s Fly & Supply, Chrissy Atkins, co-founder of Orvis’ 50/50 on the Water, and Erica Nelson of Brown Folks Fishing.
“This year, our move back to Denver to stand on our own, is the culmination of three years of tireless work by our staff and Board, but especially by our Show Committee, led by Steve Bendzak,” said Bulis. “I couldn’t be more proud of the programming we had for our attendees. We are a lean, dedicated team, but we punch above our weight. This show is such a vital part of our industry’s success. We’re already digging into next year and can’t wait to deliver an even bigger and more valuable event.”
IFTD will return to Denver October 7 – 9 in the D Hall of the Convention Center. For information about this year’s seminars, industry awards, exhibitor contracts and more, visit affta.org/iftd-show
AFFTA guides the sustainable growth of the fly fishing industry through trade development and stewardship. We accomplish this by advocating for the industry and empowering our members to improve their businesses through collaboration, education and building community; along with advocating for healthy fisheries and engaging our members and partners to support protection, restoration, and access.